Admiral Gilday: It is a great honor and privilege and quite humbling to be up here today at the Regional Sea Power Symposium 2019. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the people and the government of Italy. To your cities and local communities for hosting American Sailors at Naval Support Activity Naples, Naval Air Station Sigonella, and the Naval Base at Gaeta.
Admiral Cavo Dragone, congratulations to you and your team on bringing us together in this fantastic city of Venice. Thank you, Giuseppe, for your leadership, for your legendary Italian hospitality. It comes through in every single aspect of this great event; in fact, we’re going to give you complete credit for the wonderful weather as well.
The Italian and American navies enjoy a long history of cooperation and coming to each other’s aid. A century ago, American warships of our Great White Fleet sailed to Messina after an earthquake to provide assistance and relief. A few years later, we helped the city of Venice to defend itself from attack by providing five-inch guns for harbor defense. Likewise, Italian vessels protected American merchant and passenger ships in the Mediterranean from U-boat attacks. Italy has hosted the U.S. SIXTH Fleet since 1950, and our bonds continue today as NATO allies.
Preparing to speak ahead of the next panel titled “Seapower in the Blue Century,” I reflected on this symposium as a whole. It struck me, as I’m sure it does many of you, as we look around this room, there is nothing regional about the “Regional Seapower Symposium” of 2019. With more than almost three-dozen countries in attendance, this Symposium underscores the inherent interconnectedness of the globe: of our economies, of thoughts and ideas, of our security. Indeed, we should all seek a free and open maritime commons, and we should do that together. Countries with coastlines stretching along every ocean of the world are in this audience. From the South Atlantic, to the Pacific and Indian Oceans; from the Arabian Gulf to the Arctic, from the Strait of Malacca to the Bab Al Mandeb to the Strait of Gibraltar and beyond. So Giuseppe, I compliment you for hosting what is truly a global event. It’s powerful.
I look forward to continuing the cooperation between our two countries and our two navies. Our relationship is deep and enduring. Italy’s contributions to security on NATO’s southern flank and deployments around the world do much to guarantee the security of the international community. Our countries are more than just military partners. We’re friends.
I’m committed to advancing our relationship and our shared values of democracy, free and fair trade, the rule of law with all our European and world-wide allies and partners, many of whom are here in this hall. There is so much work that we can do together. Combined with a robust constellation of allies and partners we’ve decided to build and strengthen the international economic boarder. We are operating toward the same end, the continued security and stability that results in a free and open maritime commons. In my view, there is no better signal of our desire to do just that than naval operations and exercises around the globe. From high-end exercises like TRIDENT JUNCTURE, held last year with 50,000 troops and all 29 participating NATO countries, plus Finland and Sweden, to MARE APERTO 2019 with 40 ships, 5 submarines, 30 aircraft from Italy, Canada, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United States, to the 47th iteration of BALTOPS earlier this year, to expeditionary exercises NORTHERN COAST in Denmark and NORTHERN CHALLENGE in Iceland. We continue to advance our pioneering efforts. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Navy participated in the multinational International Unmanned Maritime Systems Experimentation Exercise, hosted by the Portuguese Navy.
Elsewhere around the globe, CUTLASS EXPRESS AND OBANGAME EXPRESS in Africa, the International Maritime Exercise in the Middle East, MALABAR in the Indo-Pacific, and the Rim of the Pacific Exercise are all strengthening our naval bonds while demonstrating the importance of our day-to-day alliances and partnerships. These relationships are unwavering, and the United States Navy is committed to maintaining a steady course of naval cooperation, strengthening the connections between our services.
The city of Venice, with its network of canals and bridges connecting 118 islands, is a city with a rich history of commerce and trade, an enduring story of prosperity delivered by and from the sea while defending against its dangers. When we speak about challenges, opportunities, and resilience, there is no better metaphor than the City of Venice.
And so, we learn that solutions to maritime challenges must acknowledge our inherent interconnectedness. That is why the term “Blue Century” has gained so much traction, the promise and potential of the seas to promote prosperity and development are stronger now than they have ever been in the past.
Seas enable economic prosperity of nations, allowing the free flow, as you’ve heard many times over the past two days, of more than 90 percent of all trade and 99 percent of digital information. The scope and scale of human activity today has made our economies more dependent on the seas than ever before. From energy generation, to mining, from the transport of raw materials and refined products around the world, to fishing and expanding digital infrastructures, all of it depends on the world’s oceans.
When you consider this, it is easy to understand why shared values among nations are so critically important. The mutual respect for and adherence to international law as well as a safe and secure maritime environment has enabled nations, both large and small to prosper. Indeed our global economy floats on seawater. Today, the very nature of our operating environment requires shared common values and a collective approach to maritime security. And that makes steady, enduring Navy-to-Navy relationships more important than ever. Our common naval experience strengthens our ties and maintains the secure and orderly conditions that continue to deliver prosperity for all of us.
While any Navy can surge forces, none of us can surge trust. naval exercises and symposiums like RSS help us build relationships so we can talk to each other in good times as well as difficult ones. Admiral Mullen, a former chief of naval operations talked about a “thousand-ship Navy.” I say, why not a ten-thousand-ship Navy? With like-minded partners, there’s a lot we can do together to keep the maritime commons free and open.
I assumed my current office as Chief of Naval Operations in late August and I am keenly interested in keeping our efforts to ensure a free and open maritime commons. Soon, I will be issuing guidance to the United States Navy, and I would like to share with you my key ideas of focus.
My Navy’s strategic direction is strong, I believe and I am convinced of the necessity of working with you, our allies and partners across the globe.
I believe that the United States Navy is at a transformational moment, where we are shifting the central operational hub of our naval operations from strike groups and amphibious readiness groups to our fleet level. We have a long tradition of sailing with many of you, and we look forward to operating with you as we make this shift, experimenting and exercising at the high end of naval operations. By doing so, we will only improve our collective readiness and responsiveness; pioneer new concepts together, strengthen deterrence, and positively shape the security environment. Here in Europe, Admiral Foggo and Vice Admiral Franchetti will continue to build on their fantastic work to date operating, exercising, and experimenting with large naval force elements. As our other fleet commanders will pursue similar efforts in their regions around the world.
I am focused on the frontiers of technology, which has always shaped the naval environment for us. The U.S. Navy is rapidly innovating and digitizing its operations through tactical cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. We will combine that with innovation that our talented Sailors bring to generate unprecedented naval power, naval power that will hopefully preserve security.
While we look to the future, we never lose focus on the present. The United States stands ready to ensure security and to reinforce the international norms that enables the shared prosperity of all of us.
Before assuming this position, I served as the Commander of the U.S. TENTH Fleet, our Navy’s Cyber Fleet with responsibility for world-wide cyber operations. That experience helped me to understand the connections between the digital world and the maritime, and the challenges related to the interconnectedness of both. So, I believe that we, each from our respective countries, must strive to think differently and to educate our Sailors about this digital realm as we rely on it more and more for security and stability. The U.S. Navy will bridge the cyber divide to overcome new operational challenges in our own fleets.
We are aiming high, and as I visit my Sailors operating around the world, I am both energized and inspired by them. And, I see that we will reach these goals, and more, very soon.
Being ready to defend international norms is important to the United States, and I know it is important to all of you. We are defending international norms to foster global economic prosperity. We do it to protect the right to navigate the world’s international waters. We do it to ensure smaller nations are not bullied by others, so they can access their fair share of resources. We do it to help others recover from disasters, and we do it to maintain the maritime domain is a more stable and secure place for all of us and for our children. And that, is why we should all continue to fly, to sail and operate wherever international law allows.
One way to support international norms is to give them voice, and I am proud to do so here today. We stand for freedom of navigation and freedom of the seas. We remain confident in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and we sail according to its provisions. We believe in the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all countries under the law of the sea, and in that common observance by all countries is in our common interest. We will continue to operate as allowed by international law, to protect the sea-lanes of communication so that every nation can take equal advantage of this rules-based international order. But, we will not do so alone. Partnerships are absolutely essential.
So, we will continue to support cooperative frameworks. We are proud to work with like-minded nations to establish partnerships like the International Maritime Security Construct to promote security and stability. The United States seeks to work with IMSC members to decrease tensions over waterways critical to global economic activity fueled by international commerce and shipping, to support our allies and partners from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The international nature of this construct demonstrates our “Strength in Unity,” like the nature of this symposium.
Going forward, my promise to you is that we will continue to partner and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all nations who share a mutual respect for and adherence to international law as well as a vision of free and open maritime commons.
Just as canals and bridges built in Venice over centuries created a strong and resilient city, the connections we continue to build will strengthen our own security and our prosperity. I am filled with hope, I am filled with strength, and I’m filled with conviction when I look across this room and I see this distinguished group of seasoned mariners. We now have a great and historic opportunity, and I would add a responsibility, to strengthen our bonds, collaborate to advance the art and science of naval operations, and to apply our resolve to ensure the seas remain secure, free, and open so we may actually realize the promise of the Blue Century.
I am humbled and honored to be amongst you. I will continue to be your partner as a global force for security and stability. I have a great sense of urgency to find solutions to the problems we collectively face, and I promise I will work with you to chart the course to overcome these challenges. It brings me great solace knowing that we stand together, ready to confront the challenges of today and of tomorrow.
Thank you so very much.
Adm. Mike Gilday
17 October 2019
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